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Part of Road Traffic Act 1988 (Alcohol Limits) (Amendment) Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 1:15 pm on 11th March 2016.

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Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Parliamentary Under-Secretary 1:15 pm, 11th March 2016

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, for bringing the Bill forward and for his subsequent amendments. I am sure he is aware that the Government take the threat of all dangerous drivers, including drink-drivers and drug-drivers, very seriously, and will continue to monitor all the elements that contribute to the number of deaths on our roads. I have previously set out what the Government are doing to reduce all road casualties in England and Wales, but I will re-emphasise the important steps we are taking that will help to tackle drink-driving specifically.

Drink-driving is still responsible for too many deaths and injuries. In order to prevent this, we will continue to take tough action against the small number of drivers who ignore the drink-drive limit. Many drivers killed in drink-drive collisions, or prosecuted for drinking and driving, are significantly over the drink-drive limit. The Government therefore believe that rigorous enforcement and serious penalties for drink-drivers, particularly these dangerous individuals, are a more effective deterrent than changing the drink-drive limit.

As I have previously said, the Deregulation Act 2015 made important changes to the drink-driving laws. First, it removed the so-called statutory option that allowed drivers who were slightly above the breath-alcohol limit to demand a blood or urine test. Secondly, it made it a requirement for high-risk offenders to undertake medical tests before they are allowed to drive again.

I note that we have just removed Clause 2, as the noble Lord proposed, which refers to Section 8(2) of the Road Traffic Act 1988, as it was removed by the Deregulation Act 2015. If the Government were in favour of the Bill, we would have agreed to the removal. However, I want to reiterate that the Government do not support the Bill. We believe that the legislative changes already made are very important steps that will help to reduce drink-drive casualties.

With regard to the lower drink-drive limit, we will, of course, remain interested to see the substantial evidence base from the changes made in Scotland, when it is available. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and I have talked about this issue and I am sure he agrees that it is important that the Scottish Government carry out a full evaluation of its impact. It is also important to note that the penalties for drink-driving in England and Wales are more severe than in other countries, and despite the majority of these other countries having lower alcohol limits, they do not have a better record on reducing drink-drive casualties. The Government therefore maintain our position that lowering the limit in itself is not going to change people’s behaviour and would not be the best use of resources to improve safety on our roads at this time.

In thanking the noble Lord for his contribution, I reiterate that this remains a very key and important issue. I assure him that we will continue to support the police in their rigorous enforcement efforts against all dangerous drivers—for example, through the introduction of roadside evidential breath-testing instruments, which are expected next year. I hope the noble Lord is also assured that we continue to enforce strict drug-driving laws with our award-winning THINK! campaigns.